Bully tone in Hardesty-Peterson letter has overtones of failed Columbia River Crossing effort
On Oct. 21, the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program’s (IBR) Executive Steering Group (ESG) held it’s monthly meeting to review progress on the project. The members were offered their first view of three design options to be considered. Before the day was over, ESG members Jo Ann Hardesty and Lynn Peterson had written a letter to program Administrator Greg Johnson expressing concerns.
The “bully tone” of the letter raised the hackles of at least two members of the Vancouver City Council. To them it appeared Portland City Councilor Hardesty and Metro President Peterson were acting more like bullies trying to force their desires on the program rather than working as co-equal partners.
“The letter was confusing and disheartening in its tone, because it felt like Metro and the city of Portland were trying to put themselves in a primary leadership role,” instead of acting like partners, said Vancouver Councilor Ty Stober.
Councilor Bart Hansen had started the conversation by asking for more details and insight into the letter. It stated Hardesty and Peterson believed the timeline was too aggressive.
Furthermore, they stated that congestion pricing needs to be matched with other regions tolling programs to determine the impacts on reducing demand. They also expressed concerns about the lane configurations according to Hansen.
Staff member Katherine Kelly responded that concerns about the timeline have been something they have been expressing for some time — “it’s nothing new.” She indicated Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle has also expressed concerns regarding the timeline.
“Their primary concern in the letter is the ability to have enough technical analysis completed, and enough integration of all the different elements and the analysis of those elements, coming together in time to be able to make a consideration for an IBR solution in spring,” Kelly said.
“We expect that this is a partnership and that we expect to be treated as partners in this process,” Stober said. “When words are said that don’t respect that partnership, it decreases the strength and power that has been built at this point.”
“I did get a bully sense type of tone to it.” Hansen responded. “I don’t want this bridge project to be something that’s controlled by Metro and Portland entirely. I want this to be a collaborative effort amongst all parties.”
Mayor McEnerny-Ogle responded: “we’re well aware that half that bridge is on our half of the Columbia River.”
We recognize the goal to identify an IBRP Solution by early 2022. However, we are concerned about the design options analysis. As previously expressed, to get to the IBR Solution we cannot maintain the same highway and toll rate assumptions from the Columbia River Crossing – which is currently the case in the preliminary design options. To understand the effect of holistic design, analysis must include a review of the potential for high quality transit paired
with congestion pricing at similar rates to other cities to effect transportation demand. This change in demand should inform bridge and highway design options. We urge the team to fully consider a holistic modeling and analysis approach, to ensure we can advance our shared goals as articulated in the Desired Outcomes, and to produce an evaluation supportive of the needs of decision makers. Without this analysis, we do not feel we will have enough Information to identify the best IBR solution nor answer the questions from our councils. We need to see analysis that looks at what is possible if we fully invest in transit capacity and access and integrate equitable congestion pricing. Our staff have previously shared the need for this modeling, analysis, and evaluation and remain prepared to engage and support the effort.
We want to be very clear about what we and our colleagues on the Metro Council and Portland City Council will need to make and support the necessary decisions to get us there:
- DesignOptions: We support the technical work underway to develop and explore individual design options. However, we are concerned that under the current work plan elements will only be analyzed individually as if they do not influence each other (i.e., highway design, tolling, and transit options). Further, the modeling underway is critical to make informed decisions about the IBRP Solution and some significant base assumptions have not been adequately revisited. This will not produce the information we need to make decisions on major elements such as the number of lanes crossing the river. As mentioned above, we need to see analysis that looks at what is possible if we fully invest in transit capacity and access and integrate Equitable congestion pricing.
- Desired Outcomes: we appreciate the collaboration between the IBR program and partners to gain consensus on Desired Outcomes. These statements are foundational to the work ahead and we look forward to incorporating any additional feedback provided by the Equity Advisory Group.
- Screening Criteria: we look forward to seeing how the screening criteria relate and support our ability to measure success against Desired Outcomes. We will need data from modeling, equity, and climate technical analysis to understand how options perform relative to screening criteria metrics and to identify tradeoffs.
In sum, to reach an IBRP Solution together we need to develop and agree on screening criteria, develop and agree on alternatives, analyze and measure the alternatives against the criteria, and conduct an inclusive public outreach effort — one that gives the public sufficient time to weigh in on the results of the analysis. And agency partners need sufficient time for briefings with elected officials and public boards.
During the Monday Vancouver City Council meeting, Councilors Bart Hansen and Ty Stober comment about the bully tone of a letter from two Oregon members of the IBR Executive Steering Group. They expect to be treated as partners rather than Portland simply forcing their will on Washington. Video courtesy Clark/Vancouver Television
Clark County Today emailed several questions to both Hardesty and Peterson.
In the letter you ask for “high quality transit paired with congestion pricing at similar rates to other cities to effect transportation demand.”
As background, the I-5 corridor presently has about 140,000 daily vehicle crossings. Using the CRC data, it was projected to have about 180,000 daily movements by 2030, and 290,000 daily movements by 2060.
#1 — How many cars and trucks would you like to see removed from I-5, as part of your request to “effect transportation demand”?
#2 — Please provide details on what “high quality transit” would look like, how much you think it would cost, and how many vehicles it would take off the road?
#3 — Finally, how much should the tolls be in your desired congestion pricing, and how many vehicles would that take off the road?
#4 — Would it be acceptable if the toll rates (congestion pricing) shifted the travel times to other parts of the day, or should the goal of congestion pricing be to either stop people from driving or use mass transit?
The only response provided was from the Metro media contact saying “we have no comment at this time.”
Citizens have overwhelmingly asked that traffic congestion relief be the top priority in addressing the I-5 corridor and a replacement bridge. They are also very sensitive about Portland trying to force their MAX light rail on Clark County in the failed CRC. The Clark County Council recently reaffirmed traffic congestion relief as their top priority for the project.
One person familiar with the letter said Portland was already acting like a bully with their tolling plans. With over 75,000 Clark County and Southwest Washington citizens crossing the river every day for work (pre-pandemic) the greatest impact of tolling will fall on Washington residents.
In the failed Columbia River Crossing, it was estimated that 60 percent of the tolls would be paid by Washington residents.
I personally do not read a bullying tone in the letter to the IBRC. I do read a hostile tone in the letter that Clark County Today sent requesting comment. Also I think the article misrepresents the issues that were presented.
The IBRC does not have any data at this time that can answer the questions regarding transit time improvements nor do they have any data to support the reduction in single occupied vehicles with their goal of a mode shift to other forms of transportation such as bicycling, walking and others that were included in the presentations to the ESG and the Bi-Lateral Committee. This information is critical to these decisions in my opinion and the leadership is right to request it. . In fact, isn’t this is just a continuation of the requests from Senator Frederick and Representative Vick.
I agree that “the data” is something many, many people have been asking for from the beginning. We are now almost 2 years into the program. We are perhaps 3 months from a “final” solution. And yet there is “no data”, as you admit. So we are on the same page there regarding “data”, with one important exception. In reality, we have “old” data, and what we need is updated “data”.
The “data” we do have was included in the story. There are about 140,000 vehicles crossing the Interstate Bridge daily today. It was projected that by 2030, there would be an estimated 184,000 daily movements, or 44,000 more than today’s very congested I-5 bridge corridor.
Kevin Peterson converted that “data” into the number of lanes needed. So the “old” data shows a need for at least 5 lanes in each direction by 2030.
The questions I asked were related to “how many cars could be removed from the road” if people chose to use transit, combined with tolling.
Clearly, we would need to remove 44,000 vehicle crossings on I-5 by 2030, just to “break even” with the problems we are facing with today’s level of congestion. To actually provide “relief”, we would need to remove even more vehicles.
Am I wrong in that assessment?
And “yes”, we should be making these decisions with UPDATED data, that the IBRP has FAILED to provide before they apparently lay down a “solution”.
That said, I do NOT see any “viable” high capacity transit option that would remove 44,000 or more vehicle crossings a day by 2030, let alone another 100,000 by 2060.
“If” one were to assume 100% of those are round trip commuters, you would need to remove 22,000 vehicles by 2030, if they were single occupancy.
The MAX light rail system is almost “maxed out” in terms of the number of trains that can cross the Willamette River at the Steel Bridge. In terms of MAX, it is the Steel Bridge that is their “bottleneck” — one train every 90 seconds during peak commute times, I believe. Furthermore, because they choose to run ON the city streets of downtown Portland, TriMet can only put 2 cars in a single light rail “train”.
We already have data that shows both light rail and bus transit ridership has been in decline for at least a decade in Portland, and two decades in Vancouver. Furthermore, we know as a “fact” that TriMet has said it will take 6 years before their transit ridership returns to pre pandemic levels. And C-Tran this summer announced a significant reduction in their cross-river express bus service to Portland.
Therefore it is highly unlikely that transit will reduce much if any, of the 44,000 added daily vehicle crossings of the Columbia River the old data predicted by 2030.
It is therefore logical to ask what they envision as “high quality” transit that will truly attract a significant number of riders, since the current two transit companies are predicting reduced ridership in the near term.
John Charles of the Cascade Policy Institute has said: “Perhaps their biggest analytical mistake is thinking that enhanced transit capacity/service will have a material effect on VMT or peak-hour trips. Transit is irrelevant, period, regardless of how much they gold-plate it.”
I just don’t see any way we can reduce traffic congestion (the people’s number ONE priority) without adding vehicle capacity. Because both Hardesty and Peterson have said they do NOT want to add vehicle capacity into downtown Portland, especially at the Rose Quarter bottleneck, then the only logical place to add vehicle capacity is via a 3rd bridge (or tunnel) and a new transportation corridor.
Regarding “congestion pricing” to reduce the number of vehicles on the interstate. I attended 5 of the 6 “Value Pricing” PAC meetings. They shared that once tolling was implemented on both I-5 and I-205, 130,000 vehicles would be diverting on to side roads, to avoid the tolls. There is already a significant number of vehicles diverting on to side roads because there is not enough vehicle capacity on area freeways.
So tolling doesn’t eliminate vehicle trips. It simply moves those vehicles onto the “free” side roads and into the neighborhoods. But it was logical to ask Peterson and Hardesty “how many” vehicles do they believe would be removed from the roads, which are already congested 12 hours a day along the I-5 corridor.
But I truly welcome any and all “solutions” that reduce traffic congestion in a legitimate, cost effective manner. Those solutions can be a tunnel or new 3rd and 4th bridges across the Columbia River.
After all, Portland has a dozen bridges across the Willamette River. Just try to imagine how horrible the traffic congestion would be “if” they only had 2 or 3 or even 4 bridges across the Willamette River.
But simply “pricing” the roads so that more cars divert into the neighborhoods is not a viable alternative, in my opinion. That not only increases safety risks in the neighborhoods, but it also reduces the quality of life for the residents in those neighborhoods.
Even prior to the pandemic, fewer people were willing to ride transit. We now have the “reality” of public health concerns regarding COVID-19 and currently the delta variant. Nationally, transit ridership plummeted by 60-70 percent, meaning transit takes even fewer vehicles off the roads.
Knowing the “goal” of the people is to reduce traffic congestion and to save travel time, I welcome anyone showing how we can accomplish that in a realistic, cost effective manner.
Well there is one solution that hasn’t been discussed here – create a more business friendly environment so that more well paid job opportunities exist here in Clark County so that fewer commutes are required!
Sadly, the David Madore & Tom Mielke “incentives” were reversed by the county council several years ago.
Perhaps the pandemic lockdown has proven to a significant number of businesses that their employees CAN be productive workers from home!
But in the end, the “old” projections showed an additional 44,000 vehicles a day using the I-5 corridor by 2060. As much as you and I would love it, I don’t see “work from home” or “new jobs” eliminating most of those vehicles. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to create the “opportunity” on this side of the river, for sure! 🙂
I think in the if they could achieve what they initially set out to do. They will be pleased and we will be doomed to another, ineffective, unsustainable, and expensive project. Max lines anyone?
John Ley, I totally agree with your analysis. In the meetings I have attended we have not used these projections because they are so unreliable. Squabble over “data” and “updated data”?
Does the Hardesty/Peterson position of no more vehicular traffic negate the more lanes option? Would limited access and exit HOV lanes allow the increase in movement without the increase downtown? Austin, Texas, does this, and I-5 in the Puget Sound area has this to a limited degree.
Is the option of multiple bridges between I-5 and I-205 even possible with the location of PDX? My suggestion to our governors and federal ;legislators to have a loop to the west for the I-5 corridor did not receive any support (or even acknowledgement) even though the federal funding increase is probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for this major a project.
Finally, in my opinion this train has left the station. I believe the decision to have three through lanes in each direction has been made and will be announced in March. Thus should we even hope for a better solution that can consider transit needs outside the five mile limit imposed on the IBRP?
As always, I learn so much from your analysis.
As always, great discussion and questions.
Re: “Would limited access and exit HOV lanes allow the increase in movement without the increase downtown? Austin, Texas, does this, and I-5 in the Puget Sound area has this to a limited degree.”
My answer is to point out that Seattle has constructed NEW CAPAPCITY on I-5 with the switchable “express lanes” from downtown going north. In the morning, this added capacity (4 lanes I believe) goes from roughly the Northgate Mall (about 9 miles north of downtown) to downtown Seattle and handles the southbound morning rush hour traffic. Then between 11 AM & noon, the DOT switches the direction and from about 1 PM to 7 or 8 PM the northbound traffic has the 4 added lane capacity.
Why won’t Portland consider building this “Seattle” solution?
That “Seattle solution” includes “express lanes” across the north end of Lake Union and “the cut” using the lower deck of the Lake Washington Ship Canal Bridge. The top deck is always two way, north and south traffic lanes.
RE: “Is the option of multiple bridges between I-5 and I-205 even possible with the location of PDX?”
Yes, it is absolutely “possible” and was one of multiple “options”. I have a map showing this from a government study.
The “focus” at the moment is only on the I-5 corridor. Yet, as you know, it should be viewed as an entire “system”. Because “if” there were only TOLLS on the I-5 bridge, a ton of vehicles would simply divert to I-205, which is already at capacity.
What is needed are multiple bridges, as the 2008 RTC “Visioning Study” showed. There is a potential “need” for a port to port bridge, that could take many of the 18-wheel trucks off I-5 between the Port of Vancouver and the Port of Portland.
There is a need for a “bypass” on the west side, which would remove many vehicles bound for the NW industrial district in Portland. And of course so many vehicles would LOVE a true “western bypass” to get to Washington County and the Nike & Intel campuses with all those jobs.
Similarly, there is need for an east county bridge, to provide traffic congestion relief to the congested I-205 Glenn Jackson Bridge. We have the “data” that shows these needs. And while the data should be updated, it will not show the “need” has disappeared for two more bridges (at least).
And the “region” could benefit from a short connection from SR-14 to Marine Dr. near the PDX airport, which would facilitate some additional traffic congestion relief from I-205. That could be a bridge or a tunnel.
Thanks for the discussion!
Thank you for another informative news story, John Ley!
I am beginning to wonder if generally speaking, maybe there is a bit too much emphasis on the word bullying lately. There are definitely people who have felt bullied by the IBRP pushing their plans through! On the other hand, it looks like some people in support of IBRP might see a resistance to what they themselves personally want as being a type of bullying. Interesting. A couple of things… Tone can be more difficult to read in a letter, whoever writes one, but adding to that, Hardesty is definitely not liked by many due to her manner at times. People tend to react to things depending on their past experiences and stress levels.
This whole replacement bridge thing would/will strongly impact a lot of really concerned people, and we know it needs to be done right. Whatever happens, we need the best possible outcome for reliable and safe travel between WA and OR, and for any damaging plans or agendas to be seen for what they are. I highly value investigative reporting. If I was asked what I would personally like regarding the I-5 bridge issue, it would be for a third and if possible also a fourth bridge to be built between our neighboring states. There is the need.
One thing that is seldom mentioned in transit discussions, especially light rail, is that TRANSIT IS VERY SLOW -transit takes twice as long as driving to get people to their jobs. That is true both nationally and in Portland. http://www.debunkingportland.com/CommuteTime.html
The second, related, “secret” is that transit CANNOT GET PEOPLE TO MOST jobs in any reasonable time. In Portland transit can only reach 40% of the jobs in NINETY MINUTE commute. http://www.debunkingportland.com/transit_and_jobs.html
And then the DIRTY secret – transit uses MORE ENERGY and thus emits more CO2 per passenger-mile than cars. http://www.debunkingportland.com/Top10Bus.html
Of course it is seldom mentioned that transit costs are about 70% taxpayer subsidized and less than 30% paid by riders.
Considering the facts that transit is slower, less convenient, energy wasting and vastly more expensive compared to transit, why do we even have public transit when people would be served better by giving free taxi/Uber vouchers to low income non-car owners? (Transit riders that are NOT low income can pay their own taxi/uber)
So true. “Light” rail is “sold” as flexible and inexpensive… but it is neither. “Light” means “low volume” (“Heavy” rail is high volume, e.g. BART trains with 10 cars capable of carrying as many as 1000 passengers on a single train (i.e. crammed in with 2/3rds standing). The limitations of the Tri-Met moving over city streets (on the only practical route between Vancouver and Portland) make a “Light” rail transit solution simply a fiction, leaving one to assume ulterior motives (getting new tax revenues) for the proposal.
If Portland does not wish to expand the lane count through the Rose Quarter (and that is not an unreasonable desire) the only rational solution is to expand cross-river capacity by building a “west loop” (as planned back in the 1970s and 1980s) to move through traffic out of downtown Portland.
Frankly, the success of the “east loop” (I-205) is quite remarkable, though traffic growth over the years has finally turned that into a lengthy parking lot during commute hours. A new “west” loop would likely draw through traffic away from I-205 as well as from the I-5 bridge, offering traffic relief on both corridors.
As for transit costs (Tri-Met) — it’s also ignored that transit systems are frequently paid for by issuing 30 year bonds. But when the bonds are paid off, the 30 year expected life-span for a rail transit system is at hand — and NEW financing will be required to significantly rebuild the system. Transit systems are highly popular among politicians, contractors, and unions (who ‘donate’ to politicians), but they do not serve the public efficiently or cost effectively. (Fare box revenue is rarely more than 15 to 30% of the total expenses — forcing non-users (and those who do not benefit in any way) to pay the bulk of the cost.That is simply unjust. Example, BART is financed through property tax and sales tax add-ons. The diversion of funds for transit also deplete funds available for highway maintenance or improvements.)
The location shown for the three proposed bridges follows the usual rules for forcing people into the desired conclusion. All three proposals will work better for light rail than for traffic.
For traffic, the new bridge should be up river right next to the current bridge so as to better align with I5 by removing the bend in the road as southbound traffic enters the bridge.
if built with an opening (very few lifts), this would be the same height profile as the current bridge and match current roads, releiving the need for expensive interchange work.
If we were to buld ONLY A BRIDGE (no toy trains, no interchange rebuilds, no reserved lanes for transit, normal pedestrian & bike accommodations) it would be a fast, affordable project doable WITHOUT TOLLS.
This biggest issue, although there are many challenges, you have a incompetent Hardesty shoving her progressive utopia unicorn dreams down our throats. Just look at what she has done to PDX – she is a complete disaster – that is a major problem & PDX, especially down town has turned into a filthy, unlawful disaster – she is responsible for!
As a former Oregon resident, I would NEVER trust anything from power monger Lynn Peterson. Hardesty is the most incompetent Portland City Council person besides Eudaly, that Portland has ever had. Under their leadership Portland has become a giant cesspool of trash, horrible gun violence, out of control drivers and total disgrace to the entire state. Please keep Tri-Met out of Clark County or we will be just like Portland in a short time.